Saturday, June 16, 2018

Update On Orchid Seeds That Germinated On My Tree

On the OrchidBoard, Camille1585 requested an update on the orchid seeds that germinated on my tree.


In 2011 I sowed a bunch of different orchid seeds on my Cedar tree and much to my very pleasant surprise some of them actually germinated...

Symbiotic Orchid Germination 1a 008

All the seedlings turned out to be Laelia anceps.  Over the years I've documented the growth of the largest seedling...

December 2012

Dockrillia, Crassula, Orchid seedling

June 2013

Volunteer Orchid Seedling

Dec 2013

Laelia anceps Volunteer

Aug 2014

Laelia anceps

Nov 2014

Laelia anceps volunteer

April 2016

Laelia anceps

June 2018

Laelia anceps

There's a really big disparity between the seedlings in terms of size.  Here's one of the smallest seedlings...

What explains the remarkable size disparity?  Is it because of the difference in the seeds and/or the difference in the microhabitats and/or the difference in the helper fungus?

The largest seedling germinated right next to the roots of a slow growing variety of Dendrobium teretifolium.  Evidently the Dendrobium harbored a fungus in its roots that the Laelia seed was able to put to good use.  Is this fungus from Australia like the Dendrobium, or from Mexico like the Laelia, or is it pantropical?  In any case, given that the Laelia is in the process of outgrowing and overgrowing the Dendrobium, clearly it isn't always advantageous for an orchid to harbor fungus that can help germinate the seeds of unrelated orchids.   I wonder whether the seeds of this Dendrobium would be able to germinate near the roots of this Laelia.

Right now the largest seedling has five new pseudobulbs starting to grow.  In many, if not most, years its pseudobulbs mature around August and new ones would start to grow.  They would mature late winter or early spring.  Part of the reason for this is because this individual hasn't yet allocated any energy to blooming!  It is definitely not precocious.  The trade-off between growing and blooming is quite interesting.

Last year I removed two keikis from my very wonderful Dendrobium Gloucester Sands (discolor x canaliculatum) and attached them to boards...

The smaller keiki decided to put out roots and a new pseudobulb while the larger keiki decided to bloom.  Blooming is very costly in terms of energy so, for a plant this size, I'd normally nip the spike in the bud, so to speak.  In this case I decided to leave it for illustrative purposes.  Some animal decided to mostly override my decision by eating all of the buds except for one.

The "pockets" made of shade cloth are filled with slow-release fertilizer granules.  This effectively fertilizes all the mounted plants beneath it, but I really shouldn't have attached the pockets to the boards.  Bundling the pockets and the boards discourages me from moving the boards.   Instead, I should have made completely "independent" pockets.  Another thing, seedlings and small newly mounted divisions don't respond well to lots of fertilizer.

Getting back to the Den Gloucester Sands, here are its roots growing on my Pachypodium lamerei...

Dendrobium Gloucester Sands (discolor x canaliculatum) roots on Pachypodium lamerei

Here's a video of it...

Diversity is the best.  Last September I excitedly purchased a flask of Bc Beulah Bradeen (Cattleya walkeriana x Brassavola nodosa) from eBay.  Both parents have done quite well for me so I was very curious to see whether their offspring might do even better.  As per my standard operating procedure, I carefully mounted the largest seedlings on sections of trellis wood...

I distributed all the mounts throughout the garden.  So far only around five seedlings survived the winter.  And it was a pretty reasonable winter... it didn't even freeze.

Why did so many seedlings die?  Was it primarily from a lack of heat?  Or was it primarily from a lack of water?  During winter, for most of my plants I drastically cut back on watering.  In any case, given that a few seedlings survived, there's certainly variation in terms of the seedlings and/or the microhabitats.

One issue with flasks is that there's usually no selection in terms of drought tolerance.  Last fall I had a relevant e-mail discussion with an orchid hybridizer in Australia who specializes in tea tree orchids.  He had recently registered Dendrobium Ultraviolet, which is a cross between a less succulent orchid, Den Berry, and a more succulent orchid, Den canaliculatum.  Even though the cross is 62.5% canaliculatum, it looks more like kingianum.

My theory is that, in a flask with adequate moisture, storing water is a disadvantage.  Seedlings that are more succulent are going to lose the competition for limited space to the seedlings that are less succulent.  So when a more succulent orchid is crossed with a less succulent orchid, if the seeds are flasked, then the seedlings will be less succulent.

I think the same concept must be true for temperature.  If a cooler growing orchid (ie Den Berry) is crossed with a warmer growing orchid (ie Den canaliculatum), and the flasked seeds are kept cooler, then the seedlings will predominantly be cooler growers.  I doubt that any professional flasking laboratories expose their flasks to temps as high as the temps that Den canaliculatum experiences in its native habitat.  Basically, the deck is stacked against Den canaliculatum's warmer growing and drought tolerating traits.   

Orchids populations, like all populations, conform/adapt to their conditions/environment.  Here's the most relevant passage that I've found on the general topic...

An ovule is successfully fertilized by only one pollen grain out of (potentially) many thousands.  If fertilization is performed at a sufficiently low temperature, the growth of chilling-resistant genotypes of pollen will be favored over others.  These will reach the ovule first so that their genes will appear in the resulting seed.  At no other stage of development can selection be made on such large numbers of genotypes. - Brad D. Patterson and Michael S. Reid, Genetic and Environmental Inlfuences on the Expression of Chilling Injury

What's very interesting to consider is what happens when an orchid is pollinated during the spring or fall here in Southern California.  A few days ago the high temps were in the low 90s.  Now the highs are in the low 70s.  That's a pretty big range of high temps.  Imagine how much impact this fluctuation would have on the race for the ovule.  In theory the most hercuthermal genotypes should win the race.

Laelia anceps generally blooms from fall to spring... depending on the plant and its conditions.  Honestly I don't even remember pollinating my Laelia anceps.  For all I know the seeds that germinated on my tree were from a Laelia anceps owned by unknown neighbors.  But in terms of adapting to SoCal's climate, it is advantageous for Laelia anceps to bloom when it does.  Unfortunately, its blooming also coincides with my break from my plants.  I think that, after the seeds germinated on my tree, I only once tried to pollinate my anceps, but no pods developed.  Evidently the pollen that I used (ie Brassavola) was too different.

There have been a few other times when I sowed other orchid seeds on my tree.  Only one of these other sowings was somewhat successful...

New Orchid Seed Germinated On My Tree

I noticed this NOID seedling in 2016.  It germinated right next to the roots of a Vanda tricolor.  I looked around and managed to spot a few other similar seedlings in the vicinity.  It is definitely a sympodial orchid and its pseudobulbs and the undersides of its leaves are burgundy.  When Camille1585 asked for an update on the Laelia anceps seedlings, I climbed the tree and noticed that one of these NOID seedlings was about to fall off because somebody, probably a squirrel, had dislodged the piece of bark that it was attached to.  I carefully removed the seedling and attached it to a board...

If you zoom in you can see a bunch of reed-stem Epidendrum seeds germinating near the NOID seedling.  My hope is that the helper fungus in the roots of the NOID seedling will inoculate the reed seeds.  It's my best guess that, unlike other orchid seeds, reed seeds already have enough nutrients to germinate on their own.  Even if this is the case I still want to help to spread the fungus that helped the NOID seedling germinate.

The board is sitting on my coffee table without any sort of covering and its right under a bendy octopus type lamp that stays on during the day.  Right now the reed seeds are completely dry.  Hopefully this is giving an advantage to the marginally more drought tolerant individuals.

Next to the NOID seedling's mount is another mossy mount that has a reed seedling on it...

Also on the board are some Echeveria gibbiflora seedlings and a Schlumbergera microsphaerica that I received last fall.  The Schlumbergera grew quite well over the winter.  I'm really happy with how well it has done even though the house was coldish during the winter.   If anybody is interested, this species is currently for sale on eBay.  The vendor also has some other interesting plants for sale.

Getting back to orchids, one of my very favorites is Dendrobium trilamellatum...

This robust epiphyte thrives in habitats in which few other orchids can survive. It occurs from a little south of Cooktown to the islands of Torres Strait, southern New Guinea and the Top End of the Northern Territory. It is a species of the very seasonal and hot open melaleuca woodlands where the wet season usually starts in December with occasional storms building to heavy rain in January to March, followed by a dry season in which virtually no rain falls from June to November. The Yellow Antelope Orchid flowers in spring (July to November) and the flowers are attractive, long lasting and pleasantly scented. They are about three to four centimetres across. In cultivation this species does moderately well, but must be given a dry season and the medium must be well drained. - Bill Lavarack, Bruce Gray, Australian Tropical Orchids

Last month mine bloomed for the first time.  There were only two flowers.  I really wasn't quite in my plant "mood" yet, but because I love this orchid so much, I knew that I'd be really disgruntled with myself if I didn't endeavor to put the pollen to good use.  So I used the pollen to try and pollinate two closely related Dendrobiums...

Dendrobium canaliculatum x (parnatanum x trilamellatum)
Dendrobium canaliculatum x antennatum

Both these orchids now have a seed pod developing on them, but the first orchid's seed pod is twice as large.  When the pods ripen should I sow the seeds on my tree?  I'd like to, in order to select for the individuals that are best suited to my conditions, but I'm not confident that any seeds would germinate.  Right now I'm leaning towards offering the seeds to the curator of the Huntington's succulent collection.... John Trager.  A while back he had an Oncidium cebolleta cross flasked and the seedlings were included as part of the 2012 International Succulent Introductions (ISI).  It was really great to see an orchid offered alongside the other succulent plants.  Since that year no other orchid has been offered in the ISI so naturally I think it's time for another orchid, or two, to crash the succulent party.

If I was going to summarize all of this entry with one word... I'd go with "Californication".  It's a show staring David Duchovny as a writer.  Unfortunately the show isn't about plants but the word "Californication" strikes me as really relevant to the incredible and amazing and fascinating process of the millions and millions of non-native plants growing here in California being selected for, and adapting to, California's climate.  Any Californian who grows non-native plants outdoors helps to facilitate this process, especially when they grow these plants from seed.  In theory, since orchids produce so many seeds, they should adapt the fastest.  But then there's the tricky issue that virtually all orchid seeds require fungus or flasking to germinate.   Well, this issue is only tricky if we assume, or decide, that Californication is truly desirable.

Anybody else a fan of Blade Runner?  The setting is Los Angeles in 2019.  There's an abundance of flying cars, but a scarcity of plants.  Personally, if we are going to err, then we should err on the side of too many plants.  If we're going to give future people something to complain about, then let them complain about an abundance of plants.   Let them complain that California has too many different varieties of tree Aloes that host too many different varieties of orchids that nourish too many different varieties of hummingbirds and harbor too many different varieties of lizards.

Maybe the one movie that best depicts how we should err is Annihilation.  This passage comes to mind...

A few species of orchids are occasionally able to become established in very odd microhabitats.  Withner (personal communication) reports seeing small orchids - probably Comparettia Poep. And Endl. - growing on mango leaves.  Since the leaves last about three years, this suggests that the orchid may complete a life cycle within this relatively short time.  Even more bizarre, Bowling (orchid propagator, Kew; personal communication) told me that he had once seen a tiny Microcoelia Lind. Growing on a spider's web in Ghana!  I very much doubt, however, that either leaves or webs will ever become very important orchid habitats. - William W. Sanford, The Orchids, Scientific Studies

Here's a photo of orchids growing on leaves.  Unfortunately I haven't seen a photo of an orchid growing on a spider's web, but I've seen plenty of spider webs on orchids.  Maybe Sanford is correct that leaves and webs won't become important orchid habitats but, given that ants live inside the pseudobulbs of certain orchid species, and virtually all orchid seeds need a fungus in order to germinate, and there are many different orchids that are happy to grow on cactus, I personally wouldn't underestimate potential associations between orchids and other organisms.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Free Plants - Succulents, Ferns, Bromeliads, Orchids

Next week, in the Los Angeles Craigslist, I plan to post the following...


Right now I have a plethora of plants and projects.  My plan is to super decentralize them.   What, exactly, do I mean by "decentralize"?  Basically I want to spread my plants and projects among as many different people as possible.  So rather than the plants being "mine"... they will be "ours".  This comes with the expectation that, down the road, you will happily share divisions or cuttings or seeds with me if I ask for some. 

There are several plants that I have many extras to share.  I will primarily start with these.  For example...

- Aloe cameronii
- Aloe arborescens variegated
- Solandra maxima
- Tillandsia aeranthos
- Tillandsia tricolepsis

Everyone who visits can freely have any, or all, of these plants... while supplies last.   After they are all shared then I'll transition to the plants with less duplicates.  Naturally, given that these are fewer in number, I will have to prioritize who I share them with.  Here are some of the factors that I will consider...

- Proximity
- Greenness of thumb
- Blogs about plants
- Posts plant photos on Flickr
- Uploads plant videos to Youtube
- Reads my EpiEcon blog
- Helps with the donate-to-vote project
- Shares plants with others
- Promotes growing plants epiphytically
- Likes the Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC) Facebook page
- Likes the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC) Facebook page
- Participates in the ESSC Facebook group
- Participates in the SCARPA Facebook group
- Interested in creating phorobanas
- Grows plants from seed

These factors don't all carry the same weight and I will consider other factors as well.  Please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to cultivating many new plant friendships. 


I wanted to post this here on my blog first in order to give any readers in the area an early opportunity to participate. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Please Introduce Me To Awesome Plants!!

Last Saturday I went to the Los Angeles Fern and Exotic Plant Show with my friend Scadoxus.  Here are some of the plants that caught my attention...

Platycerium alcicorne type

Personally I have a penchant for pendant plants so I tend to prefer Playceriums that match my pendulous preference... such as certain varieties of Platycerium willinckii.  The Staghorn in the above picture is the least pendant Platy that I've ever seen.  It definitely caught my attention and I have to admit that I kinda like it.  

Hoya revolubilis - The Kunming Kina of Southern China

This is easily one of my top five favorite Hoyas.  The leaves are relatively succulent and it's a good epiphytic grower.  A while back I attached a piece of this and a piece of the somewhat similar, and far more common, Hoya shepherdii to a board covered in New Zealand Sphagnum moss.  Both Hoyas established fairly quickly but revolubilis won the competition by a mile.  The shepherdii was on its last leg when I took pity on it and moved the mount to the area that I water most frequently.  

The revolubilis in the photo is a very impressive specimen.  We all like impressive specimens... but... the Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC) has a rule about specimens.  Members of the ESSC are allowed to have specimens as long as they have already shared cuttings with all the other members.  Share, then specimen.  This rule is beneficial in several different ways.  First, it helps the plant.  No plant wants to have all its eggs in too few baskets.  Plants are all about colonization (location diversification).  Second, it helps the grower hedge their bets.  We have all lost plants for all sorts of reasons so it's really good to have many backups (plant insurance).  Third, it helps us learn about our plants faster.  The members of the ESSC all live in somewhat different climates, and have thumbs that are different shades of green, and employ different growing techniques.  It is very informative and useful to see how the same plant performs in a wide range of conditions.  Lastly, we should regularly introduce each other to awesome plants.  

Camellia edithae

It's fuzzy!  At first glance I guessed that it was an epiphytic blueberry.  But I was wrong.  I'm generally not so interested in Camellias, although they might be a good host for some orchids.  In the case of this Camellia though I might be happy to have one.  

Tillandsia flabellata rubra

Hummingbirds love reddish Tillandsias and so do I!

Tillandsia Hybrid

I want this!  Even if it's monocarpic?  Well... I hate monocarpic plants.  But there might be one or two exceptions to this rule.  Due to illegible writing I'm not exactly sure about the name of this Tillandsia.  It's a hybrid and its name starts with a B.  

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum

This isn't the best picture of this enchanting and endearing little epiphytic fern from Japan.  As you can see, it's very happily growing in a terrarium.  The fern was put in there by the terrarium genius Don DeLano.  He's very knowledgeable about plants and he gives great talks at society meetings.  At the show I asked him if he's ever tried growing this fern outside.  He said that he had but it got killed when the temps dropped below freezing.  Given that it's from Japan I was somewhat surprised.  Turns out that he was growing it in a pot.  My guess is that, here in Southern California where it rains during the winter, epiphytic plants handle the winter cold better when they are mounted, because of the excellent drainage.   In my Cedar Tree Epiphytes blog entry I shared this photo of L. microphyllum growing over two stories high on my tree... 

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum

It's mounted on several very healthy handfuls of New Zealand Sphagnum moss.  When I mounted it I also included a few other plants such as a cutting of Columnea Elmer Lorenz.  The fern has done really well but, unlike Microgramma vacciniifolia, it doesn't seem to be able to "escape" its moss island/prison.  Even though L. microphyllum isn't an escape artist it is definitely one of my very favorite ferns.  Here's another favorite... 

Niphidium crassifolium

This epiphytic fern has very long fronds and does quite well outside here in SoCal.  Perhaps through no fault of its own I didn't manage to get it established on my Cedar tree, but I do have it growing on a tree fern and on a Pygmy Date Palm.  Microsorum punctatum is another strap-leaved epiphytic fern with somewhat shorter fronds which might be more drought tolerant.  I do have it growing on my Cedar tree.  

At the show I met ESSC member Gumbii for the first time.  He has a Youtube channel about plants.  While we, along with Scadoxus, were looking at the entries I mentioned that we really should do a video of them.  From my perspective even a quick video would be better than nothing.  Perhaps we could just highlight our 10 favorite plants in the show.  Or, I joked, we could criticize the 10 worst plants in the show.  Scadoxus chimed in that at one bromeliad society meeting some guy very badly criticized a plant that a member had brought in for others to appreciate.  When the critic asked whose plant it was, the owner didn't even want to admit that it was their plant.  Yikes!  

After the show Scadoxus and I drove to Fernando's garden in West Covina.  While on the way there I was telling her about how I had learned of some new terms for an idea that I've discussed with her many times before.  The idea, and one of its terms, is voting with donations.  I explained that this is most commonly associated with using donations to decide who will have to kiss a pig, or get pied in the face, or get dunked into a tank of water.  Sometimes zoos use this method to name an animal.  That's when Scadoxus said something like, "Oh yeah, San Diego Zoo does that.  Around 15 years ago I was there with my niece and we made a donation to help name a panda."  I responded, "What in the world?  Seriously?  We've been talking about this idea for so many years (maybe like two) and you're only now just sharing this information with me?!"  "You didn't ask me about it," she replied, "...better late than never."  Ugh.  

When we got to Fernando's place I started to carefully inspect his very impressive collection.  From the corner of my eye I spotted a small flash of color.  I looked more closely and saw what appeared to be a Pelargonium flower just randomly floating in mid-air...

Pelargonium tetragonum?

It was a nearly leafless pendulous Pelargonium that was growing epiphytically!  What?!  Have you heard of such a plant?  I sure hadn't.  So I asked Fernando about it and he said that he's had it for around a decade.  What?!  How come he hadn't introduced me to this plant?  Ugh.  

We've all failed, albeit unequally so, to introduce each other to awesome plants.  I personally feel like I've failed to introduce enough people to the epiphytic fern Aglamorpha coronans.  Here's my attempt to try and solve this problem...

It's so very neat that Aglamorpha coronans has wrapped itself nearly all the way around Fernando's palm tree!  The video really doesn't do this fern justice, but I hope that it's better than nothing.

There's actually another Aglamorpha species that's even more impressive than coronans... Aglaomorpha heraclea.  It has really huge fronds.  I tried to grow it once but it wasn't a fan of our winter.  While talking to Darla Harris, the president of the Texas Gulf Coast Fern Society, I mentioned that it would be really awesome if heraclea was crossed with coronans.  When the president of the Tree Fern Society, Dan Yansura, joined the conversation, I brought up a few other crosses that should be attempted...

Davallia canariensis x Davallia fejeensis
Nephrolepis pendula x Nephrolepis cordifolia

Not sure how compatible these species are, but ferns are relatively easy to grow from spore.  I've personally had good success simply sowing the spore directly on wet floral foam that's in a pot in a zip lock bag.  Darla hadn't heard of this method before.  Hopefully she'll give it a try.

Fernando had the largest Sinningia that I had ever personally seen... 

Please remind me to remind Scadoxus to remind Fernando to harvest the seeds.  The same goes for his Begonia thiemei.

Hopefully we should all agree that we need to do the best possible job of introducing each other to awesome plants.  Right now I'm thinking that this vital task can be most efficiently and effectively accomplished by using donation voting (DV).  Fortunately for us, there are already websites that can facilitate this.  For example...

Organizations, like a local humane society, can create a contest for participants to submit and sort photos...

Those photos are sorted by DV ($1 donation = 1 vote).  Here are a couple other similar websites...

Members of various plant societies and forums could submit photos of their favorite plants and we could use DV to rank/sort/order/prioritize them.  Naturally in this case it wouldn't be possible to use our donations to criticize the worst plants.  Instead, we'd use our donations to help highlight the very best plants.  All the money raised would be spent to help promote the results.  We would essentially be pooling our money to introduce the most people to the most awesome plants in the least amount of time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Economics For 5th Graders

This entry is primarily written for the students of Classtopia.


Your teacher asked me to share with you some of my thoughts about economics, which you’re currently covering in school.  She knows that it’s my very favorite thing in the world.  Why do I love economics even more than I love epiphytes?  Well, it’s because epiphytes, and everything else that I love, all depend on economics.

Right now there are several Tillandsia aeranthos blooming at your school.  The reason why these epiphytes are beautifying your school is because you’ve cared for them, and also because I decided to share them with your teacher.  Where did mine come from?  They came from my tree where they had grown from wind-dispersed seeds, which came from plants that I had received from a friend.  Around a decade ago I drove up to Oregon and picked up a big collection of Tillandsias from my friend Dale.  He had a giant greenhouse primarily dedicated to orchids, but thanks to the really excellent air movement, the Tillandsias were taking over.  They were growing on the walls, floors, benches, pots… they were even growing on the orchids.  So I helped “weed” the Tillandsias and he let me have them.  I piled them in the back of my truck and drove them back home.  The Tillandsias, especially aeranthos, were happy in their new home and over the years I’ve shared, sold and traded the extras.

Where did Dale get his Tillandsia aeranthos from?  I don’t know.  Maybe he received them from a friend, or maybe he bought them, or maybe he traded for them.  But I do know that Tillandsia aeranthos originally came from Brazil.  This is where it is native to. 

How Tillandsia aeranthos traveled from the trees in Brazil to the trees at your school in California is an economic story.  It involves many people over the years deciding that it was worth it to spend their time growing this epiphyte.  Each new grower helped Tillandsia aeranthos, as a species, hedge its bets.  This economic story doesn’t end at your school.  Several of you already took some home… and perhaps a few of you have already shared some with other people.

What about your new school?  I’m guessing that it doesn’t already have any Tillandsia aeranthos... is this a problem?  You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to try and grow this epiphyte at your new school.  This decision depends on weighing the costs and the benefits.  On the one hand, you’ll have to take the time to water them, but on the other hand, they’ll help beautify the school and make it more interesting.  Plus, they’ll provide food for hummingbirds and shelter for other animals, which would make your school even more interesting. 

There are a few different types of cost… the most important type is known as opportunity cost.  All the time that you spend watering Tillandsia aeranthos is time that you can’t spend doing other things.  Because your time is limited, naturally you want to put it to its most beneficial uses.  The idea that society’s limited resources should be put to their most beneficial uses is known as Quiggin’s Implied Rule of Economics (QIRE).

Let’s say that you determine how much benefit that you’d personally gain from having Tillandsia aeranthos growing on trees at your new school.  What about all the other students and teachers?   According to QIRE, it matters how much benefit they would gain from this, but it’s not like you can read their minds.

Therefore, when it comes to economics, one of the most important things is the communication of benefit.  In order to maximize beneficial behavior, we need to inform others how much benefit we derive from their behavior.  There are two ways that we can express benefit… words and actions.  The main difference is that actions require a sacrifice, words do not.  Naturally we like to use words to communicate benefit but, because they don’t involve any sacrifice, they aren’t very reliable.

I’ll share an economics joke with you.  Two economists are walking along when they happen to end up in front of a Tesla showroom.  One economist points at a shiny new car and says, “I really want that!”  The other replies, “You’re lying”.  This joke is funny because if the one economist had truly wanted the car then he would have walked in and bought it.  Evidently, given that he didn’t do so, the (opportunity) cost was too high for him.  He had more beneficial uses of his limited money.

Here’s one of the most useful passages on the subject…

If a woman told us that she loved flowers, and we saw that she forgot to water them, we would not believe in her "love" for flowers.  Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.  Where this active concern is lacking, there is no love. - Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

It’s easy to say that we love something, or someone, but love can only be reliably quantified and expressed by sacrifice.  The more time that you're willing to spend growing and promoting Tillandsia aeranthos, the greater your love for it.

As an extra credit assignment you can visit Rainforest Flora.  They offer a wide selection of Tillandsias, so you might be as happy as a kid in a candy store.  Walk around the sales area and make a list of all the Tillandsias that match your preferences, and then compare it to the list of all the Tillandsias that you actually buy.  How different are the two lists?  The owners of the nursery might be interested to know all the Tillandsias that you like, but what they are truly interested to know is which Tillandsias you actually love.  The Tillandsias that you genuinely love are the ones that you are willing to spend your money on.  The owners would take this more reliable feedback and use it to try and improve their selection of Tillandsias.  If, for example, you and other customers buy more Tillandsia aeranthos hybrids, then the owners would spend more of their time creating more of them, and this would make the customers happier.  Everybody who visits Rainforest Flora has the freedom to use their money to help grade all the different products.  This is what makes it a market.

What would happen if you asked the owners to simply give you some Tillandsias for free?  Perhaps they might be willing to give you one or two, especially if you buy a dozen.  However, they’ll be much more inclined to give you free Tillandsias if you explain that they will be used to beautify your new school.  It will certainly help if you show them a blog entry that has pictures of the Tillandsia aeranthos that are now blooming on trees at your current school.  You’d inform the owners that you would also use the blog to document your mission to beautify your new school with Tillandsias.

The Tillandsias that are growing on trees at your school are a public good.  But the ones at your home are a private good.  The difference is the amount of people that can enjoy them.  Of course if your Tillandsias at home are in the front yard where everybody can see them, then they would also be a public good.  The same exact good, in this case a Tillandsia, can be a private good or a public good depending on where it is grown. 

Just like the owners of Rainforest Flora are naturally going to be more inclined to give Tillandsias away if they know that they are going to be used to beautify a school, the same is also true of the members of the La Ballona Valley Bromeliad Society

Last Fall the owner of Sunset Valley Orchids, Fred Clarke, was kind enough to donate a big box of orchids to help beautify your current school.  Future blog entries that document his orchids growing and blooming on trees at the school should recognize and acknowledge his generous contribution. 

People are happy to voluntarily contribute to beneficial causes… but our society doesn’t solely rely on donations to pay for public goods.  We primarily rely on taxes.  People are forced to pay taxes because the amount of money that people would donate to public goods would be significantly less than their true perception of their benefit.  It's certainly a problem when spending doesn't reliably communicate benefit.  Yet, everybody's taxes are spent by elected representatives.

Strange as it might seem, there’s no scientific evidence that it’s beneficial to allow elected representatives to spend everybody’s taxes.  It would theoretically be far more beneficial for each and every taxpayer to have the freedom to choose where their taxes go.  Since people wouldn't have the option to spend their taxes on private goods, their spending decisions would reliably communicate the amount of benefit that they received from public goods. Those of us who love botanical gardens, for example, would be able to allocate our taxes to them.  Of course, every school should be a botanical garden!

Unlike Rainforest Flora, our government is not a market.  Neither is Netflix.  Each month each subscriber pays $10 dollars and Netflix decides how to divide this money among all its shows and movies.  What would happen if, all else being equal, each and every subscriber was given the freedom to decide for themselves how they divide their money among the content?  What difference would it make if 100 million subscribers, each one with a unique set of preferences and knowledge, could use their money to help grade the content?  Would the supply of nature shows worsen, improve or stay the same if Netflix was a market?

The reason why people can reasonably disagree about the effectiveness of markets is because there’s a severe scarcity of scientific evidence.  Therefore, reasonable people should strongly agree that it’s imperative to scientifically test different economic systems.  Every experiment is essentially a product, so a better understanding of economics would mean more scientific progress… as well as a better supply of shows, epiphytes and everything else.

Education itself is a bundle of different products.  In school I remember wondering about the usefulness of these products.  Recently an economist by the name of Bryan Caplan wrote a controversial book arguing that many of these products are useless...

Anyone who scrutinizes modern schools with a mildly cynical eye witnesses piles of material students are laughably unlikely to use in adulthood. The fat emerges in kindergarten: history, social studies, art, music, foreign language. By high school, as we've seen, students spend at least half their time on fat. In college, many majors are made of fat: think history, communications, or "interdisciplinary studies." About 40% of graduates earn degrees in comically - or tragicomically - useless subjects. Even the hardest majors burn ample time on high theory and breadth requirements. - Bryan Caplan, The Case against Education

The people who disagree with Caplan's book, which is itself an educational product, inherently agree that educational products aren't equally beneficial.  In order to ensure that students learn the most beneficial things, everybody should have the freedom to use their money to help grade educational products.  This logically makes economics the most beneficial thing to learn.  But it wouldn't be beneficial for everybody to actually become an economist.  With this in mind, I’ll leave you with the most beneficial passage from the most beneficial book…

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every society among all the different employments carried on in it as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society.  —  Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Orchids And Aloes

Here's where we need to make so much more progress...

1. There should be lots of really nice orchids that can easily grow from seed.

2. There should be lots of smallish tree Aloes that we can attach miniature epiphytes to.

Many, if not most, of the typical reed-stem Epidendrums can easily be grown from seed... no flasking required!   The problem is that reed-stems don't usually make the best epiphytes.  So the challenge is to find/make crosses between reed-stems and other orchids in order to find the best crosses that can easily grow from seed.

One exciting cross is Kirchara Georgie (Cattlianthe Golden Wax x Epidendrum O'Brienianum).  I received it last Fall from Fred Clarke of Sunset Valley Orchids...

There was a new shoot starting to develop when I received it.  I potted the plant in pure pumice and placed it outside.  Over the winter the new shoot matured and produced a flower spike.  I'm happy that the flowers developed on the new shoot (as opposed to developing on a shoot from the previous year).

Right now the plant doesn't have quite enough canes/stems to support a seed pod.  Seed pods are quite costly in terms of energy.  But I definitely plan to use the pollen to pollinate various reed-stems.   Here are some relevant links...

The goal for Aloes is to make some really nice hosts for smallish orchids and other epiphytes.  In the video you can see a cross that's possibly between Aloe bainesii (the largest tree Aloe) and Aloe distans (not even a small tree Aloe).  It's a really neat cross... the trunk is good sized but there needs to be more branches.  Plus, it's a little on the slow side.

Does anybody recognize the Aloe that might be a dichotoma or ramosissima hybrid?  It's also nice but too slow.

The Aloe tenuior hybrid is relatively fast but so far it falls over.  All of the potential fathers are tree Aloes... and their stems do tend to thicken with age. You can read more about the hybrid here...

Towards the end of the video you can see a phorobana that consists of a Sophronitis cernua flowering on a potted Ficus rubiginosa.  The Ficus is fast and grows easily from large cuttings. The drawback is that its flowers aren't even a little showy.  So it's possible that we can make an Aloe that's a better host.  S. cernua is a really neat miniature orchid that grows great outdoors year around here in Southern California.  The drawback is that it can't easily grow from seed.

There's so much room for improvement!  Let's pool our resources and make tons of progress!

Some useful links...

Garden Tour... Orchids And Aloes

There are at least a gazillion varieties of awesome orchids that can easily grow outside year around here in Southern California.  But there are certainly a few varieties that do appreciate a greenhouse. 

My friend has a couple really nice greenhouses packed with lots of neat plants...

He also has a nice collection of Aloes...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cedar Tree Epiphytes

[update] If you have trouble seeing any of the photos in this entry try this link to my Google photos album. [/update]

Recently I got thinking about one of my vining epiphytes...

Cattleya Portia coerulea Mounted

It's on the second mount from the left.  At first I was pretty sure that it was a Dischidia.  My guess was Dischidia acuminata.  But then I became pretty sure that it was a Hoya.  My guess was Hoya micrantha.  I think the reason that I changed my mind was because I saw the flowers.  They looked a lot more like Hoya flowers.  However, they were so small and underwhelming that I didn't bother taking a photo of them.

What's remarkable about this Hoya is how well it does epiphytically.  It does really well.  Really well!   It's definitely a very strong contender for the best epiphytic growing Hoya family plant in Southern California.  I've seen it in several people's collections but nobody ever knows its name.

The other day I decided to inspect the one growing on my Cedar tree...


This one growing on the tree has smaller leaves that are yellow and quite succulent.  During summer I usually water the tree 2x/week at night.  As the temps get cooler I water less frequently.

I inspected the plant more closely but didn't see any flowers.  But I did see this...

It's a seed pod!  Surprise surprise!  The only other of my Hoyas that has produced a seed pod is Hoya serpens.  So far none of my Dischidias has produced a pod.

The other plants in the photo are a bunch of Tillandsia aeranthos volunteers growing on a Nematanthus stem.  Yesterday I was eating some lemon guavas off my tree and I brushed a bit of spider web off of one.  When I looked closer at the web, it was actually the "parachute" of a Tillandsia aeranthos seed, that had just started to germinate.

Also in the photo is Dockrillia teretifolia.  I have three different ones on my tree.  They've all had plenty of time to become specimens, but none have done so.  Maybe they want more water?

Finding the seed pod on my Hoya got me extra curious to see what else was happening on my tree.  So I started climbing.  Here's one of the three NOID orchid seedlings that most recently germinated on my tree...

Here's a pic that I took last year of one of the other NOID seedlings...

New Orchid Seed Germinated On My Tree

All three seedlings are growing next to the roots of a Vanda tricolor/suavis.  The seedlings have been growing soooooo slow.  It's like they are trying to kill me with suspense.

The previous batch of seedlings that germinated on my tree all turned out to be Laelia anceps.  There are around half a dozen on the tree... ranging from super small to blooming size.  I thought the largest seedling would bloom for the first time this year... but nope.  It's been around 6 years since they germinated.  Sheesh.  Here's an album with some pics.

Speaking of super slow seedlings... at the top of this NOID Sedum there was a succulent seedling...

At least I'm pretty sure that it was a seedling.  I was happy to discover that it was still there.  It's been hanging in there for several years.  So I decided to carefully remove it along with a section of the moss that it was growing on.  Here it is with two other small succulents...

Sedum versadense (top) and Sedeveria 'Acultzingo' (right) were also growing on the tree.   The third succulent is the NOID seedling.  Perhaps it's Echeveria nodulosa.  I did sow some seeds of it on my tree a long time ago.

I attached all three succulents to a board with Sphagnum moss on it.  The mount is now hanging in a small section of my garden that I water 3x/week at night during summer.  Hopefully the seedling will respond positively.  As I mentioned in this blog entry, I would like to try and cross Echeveria nodulosa with rosea.

Here's one of the Echeverias that has done really well on the tree...

I'm guessing it's Echeveria minima.  Also in the photo is Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Dischidia formosana, Crassula pruinosa, Sedum rubrotinctum and Cattleya Portia coerulea.

The Echeveria clump is happily growing among the roots of Anthurium schlechtendalii.  If you look closely just below the Echeveria clump you'll see the Anthurium's two very first offshoots.  What's rather surprising is the amount of distance between the offshoots and the root crown.  The angle of the photo makes it hard to tell but the distance is around 2 feet.  Then again, now that I think about it, perhaps they might be seedlings.  Every couple of years or so the Anthurium manages to produce quite a few berries.

One very consistent and productive fruiter is Columnea Elmer Lorenz...

Here are all the fruits that I harvested...

Last month I harvested pretty much the same amount of fruit.  Columnea Elmer Lorenz is the only epiphyte I have that is almost always in bloom.

In order to extract the seeds, I peel the skin and put the fruit into a water bottle that I fill half way with water.  I put the lid on and shake the bottle vigorously to separate the seeds and the fruit.  The seeds will sink to the bottom and the fruity water can be poured off.  Usually there are at least a few unsunken seeds so I'll pour the fruity water into a large bottle.  Once I'm done processing all the epiphyte fruit (ie Anthurium) I'll pour the contents of the large bottle on mounts and in hanging pots/baskets.

This time I decided to drink the Columnea's fruity water.  I knew that the fruit was edible.  Well... I guessed that it was edible.  I remember Kartuz saying that Codonanthe fruit is edible.  Not sure though if he said that all Gesneriad fruit is edible.  Anyways, the Columnea fruit water turned out to be quite bland.

But it got me thinking about how different cultivated corn is from wild corn.  What would the fruit of Gesneriads, Rhipsalis or Anthuriums look and taste like after a 1000 years of selection?

I climbed a little higher on the tree and took a photo of the roots of this Cattleya Portia coerulea...

The roots are covered in moss.  Unfortunately this moss doesn't really escape onto the bark.  I super wish that I could find a moss that would be happy to grow directly on the bark.  It would help capture and germinate all sorts of seeds and spore.

Here's a photo of the shady side of the Anthurium schlechtendalii's root ball...

The plants in this photo include Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Dischidia formosana, Anthurium NOID seedling, Polypodium aureum, Crassula marginalis minuta (?) and an Aeonium that grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.

The Anthurium seedling grew from a seed that I received from Loran Whitelock during a tour of his place.  He had a decent sized Anthurium growing in the ground that had quite a few ripe berries on it.  I asked if I could have some and he said sure.  After I got home I sowed them on the tree.  This seedling and a bigger one higher up on the tree are the result.  Unfortunately, I don't remember taking a photo of the mother Anthurium.  But I'm guessing that it's something that has been referred to as  Anthurium 'whitelockii'.  This page has a picture of a mature plant.  What's rather tricky is that PalmBob and a few other sources indicate that the name has been changed to Anthurium faustomirandae.  From my perspective though the size and orientation of the leaves are quite different.  Plus, the leaves of Whitelock's plant are much more glaucous.

A few years back Dylan Hannon sold an Anthurium on eBay that was very similar to Whitelock's.  Here was the description that he gave...

Anthurium sp. Tomellin Canyon, Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a dramatic species that slowly grows to about 3ft across and not quite as tall. Leaves are strikingly blue-glaucous, very tough and heavy. Spadix and spathe are maroon. Fruits take well over two years to mature. This is an excellent outdoor plant in Southern California and has been around a while since its introduction by the late Loran Whitelock. It goes under a few names but I am not sure any of them are correct and it could still be an undescribed (new) species. Sale item (2nd photo) is a young seedling.

Let's set this mystery aside for a bit and continue climbing the tree...

Not sure if this succulent is a Sedeveria (Sedum x Echeveria) or a Graptoveria (Graptopetalum x Echeveria).  Maybe it's Graptosedum (Graptopetalum x Sedum) Alpenglow?  Whatever it is, it can get a nice bronzy/burgundy color and does really great on the tree.  It grows super easy from leaf cuttings.  I just break some leaves off and place them wherever I want this succulent to grow.  Evidently I wanted it to grow here among the roots of Cymbidium madidum.  For some context, here's a picture that I took last year...

Cymbidium aloifolium and Cymbidium madidum

The other orchid blooming in this photo is Cymbidium aloifolium.  On the shady side of this orchid is a really neat trailing fern...

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum is an epiphyte and lithophyte from Japan.  It's perfectly happy with our temps here in SoCal.  It can handle drying out, especially during the winter, but it does appreciate a decent amount of moisture when it's warm.  Like the rest of the plants on the tree, this fern receives water 2x/week at night during summer.  However, it's growing on a decent amount of Sphagnum moss.  So far it has not managed to "escape" from the moss.  One of the best escape artists, as far as ferns go, is the somewhat larger trailing epiphytic fern Microgramma vacciniifolia.

Moving up the tree even further I have a big clump of plants all growing with the really excellent fern Aglaomorpha coronans...

In this photo you can see a never-blooming Oncidium sphacelatum, a Codonanthe carnosa (round leaves) that grew from seed sown on the tree, several Echeveria gibbifloras that also grew from seed sown on the tree, and a clump of seed sown/grown Tillandsia aeranthos.

As I mentioned in this entry, the E. gibbiflora seedlings grew really great on my tree... until they reached blooming size.  The very large and heavy rosette would badly bend the trunk and the plant would slowly deteriorate.  There have been a few exceptions.  The E. gibbiflora seedlings in the photo that are growing to the left aren't quite blooming size but the seedling growing to the right is.  It has already bloomed for a couple years but the trunk still hasn't badly bent.  One difference is that this seedling, unlike all the ones that badly bent, has branched.  You can see it a little better from this angle...

There are several different plants in this photo.  At the top is Tillandsia aeranthos (by far my most productive Tillandsia), Crassula sarcocaulis, Sedum rubrotinctum, Oncidium sphacelatum, Aglaomorpha coronans, Echeveria gibbiflora, NOID succulent (Sedeveria?), NOID Sinningia and another clump of Tillandsia aeranthos.

This gibbiflora has actually branched twice and is going to branch again.  Another difference, besides branching, is that the leaves aren't as long and the red outline seems to be more pronounced.  Here's the view from above...

In the upper left hand corner of the pic you can see the second Anthurium seedling that grew from seed that Whitelock let me have.  It is just starting to get the glaucous appearance of mature plants.  Recently I asked my friend if he had Anthurium whitelockii.  He said that he did and he gave me a seedling.  It is between my two seedlings in size, and looks somewhat similar.

If you only saw the Echeveria from this angle you'd really have no idea that it's actually one plant.  Here's a picture that I took last year of the mother plant...

Echeveria Epiplus Orchid - With Trimmed Bush

I attached a Dendrobium orchid and a few Tillandsias to the trunk of the Ecehveria.  It's near a Parkinsonia aculeata tree which has grown quite a bit.  As a result, the Echeveria was in too much shade and it started to lean.  Here's a recent pic...

Echeveria gibbiflora fell into the open arms of Kalanchoe beharensis.  It would be wonderful to have a sturdier Echeveria that readily branched.  Then epiphytes could be attached to its branches.  One potential cross with this goal in mind would be to cross Echeveria gibbiflora with Sedum dendroideum ‘Colossus’.  Wow!  But I'm guessing that they wouldn't be compatible though.

In addition to harvesting a bunch of different seeds from the plants growing on my tree, here are some of the plants that I harvested...

Tillandsia mallemontii clump (upper left) grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It was so full of blooms that I decided to remove the clump to share divisions with members of the Epiphyte Society.  The Tillandsia aeranthos clump (upper right) grew from seed that volunteered on my tree.  It was growing in my way so I decided to remove it to share.  Below the Tillandsias is a cutting of Columnea Elmer Lorenz.  I didn't make the cutting.  Last month I found 3 other cuttings.  I'm guessing that a squirrel or raccoon had made them.  The last plant is an Echeveria gibbiflora seedling that grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.  It was hanging rather precariously.

My tree has so much going on!!!  I probably only documented 5% of it.  Watching the tree is better than watching most TV shows.